What’s Worth Watching: Nightingale’s Song of Despair

Joseph Cultice/HBO

Nightingale (Friday, May 29, 9/8c, HBO)

If Roman Polanski had made his macabre 1965 masterwork Repulsion in an age of social media, the result might have looked something like Nightingale, a disturbing tour de force for David Oyelowo (Selma). He’s electrifying in this claustrophobic character study, directed by Elliott Lester from a taut script by Frederick Mensch, that depicts lonely war veteran Peter Snowden on his steep descent into paranoid, delusional, and violent madness.

Peter opens this grim video diary (much of it performed straight into a camera or laptop) by noting, “I just wish there hadn’t been so much blood.” From there, as we piece together the grisly particulars of his home life, Nightingale shows Peter festering in a psychological rabbit hole of his own design, as he impatiently plans a dinner party for a fellow soldier we suspect will never honor his pathetic invitation. While Peter careens from murderous rage to suicidal despair, the viewer is torn between revulsion and fascination. Enter this Nightingale‘s cage at your own risk.